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Could Peter Have “Written” 1 and 2 Peter Some Other Way?

Here is the last of my three posts digging down deeper into the question of whether Peter would have, or could have, written the books we now call 1 and 2 Peter, composed in highly literate Greek by someone skilled in Greek composition. ****************************** It should come as no surprise that Peter could not write Greek (or Aramaic, for that matter).  As it turns out, there is New Testament evidence about Peter’s education level.  According to Acts 4:13, both Peter and his companion John, also a fisherman, were agrammatoi , a Greek word that literally means “unlettered,” that is, “illiterate.” And so, is it possible that Peter wrote 1 and 2 Peter?  We have seen good reasons for him not writing 2 Peter, and some reason for thinking he didn’t write 1 Peter.  But it is highly probable that in fact he could not write at all.  I should point out that the book of 1 Peter is written by a highly educated, Greek-speaking Christian who is intimately familiar with the Jewish Scriptures in their [...]

2022-12-01T13:25:31-05:00November 30th, 2018|Acts of the Apostles, Catholic Epistles, Forgery in Antiquity|

Were First-Century Jewish Boys Taught to Read and Write?

In this post I continue to dig down into whether a poor Aramaic-speaking fisherman in rural Galilee could compose a highly sophisticated Greek treatise such as 1 Peter.  In my last post I dealt broadly with the question of how many people in antiquity could write.  In this post I turn my attention to Peter’s own historical context, Roman Palestine.  Is it true that boys were consistently taught literacy there and that it’s plausible that one of them could write rhetorically effective Greek compositions? I take the discussion, again, from my book Forged. ****************************** It is sometimes thought that Palestine was an exception, that in Palestine Jewish boys all learned to read so that they could study the Hebrew Scriptures, and that since they could read they could probably write.  Moreover, it is often argued that in Palestine most adults were bilingual, or even trilingual, able to read Hebrew, speak the local language Aramaic, and communicate well in the language of the broader empire, Greek.   Recent studies of literacy in Palestine , however, have shown [...]

2022-12-01T13:27:58-05:00November 28th, 2018|Early Judaism|

Seriously. How Many People in Antiquity Could Write?

I have received some push-back from readers who object to my view that Simon Peter, Jesus’ disciple, a fisherman from rural Galilee whose native language was Aramaic, living among lower-class people who spoke Aramaic, almost certainly could not have written a highly stylized and sophisticated Greek treatise such as we find in the book of 1 Peter.   My sense is that I will never convince anyone who thinks that it is simply “common sense” that of course he could learn to write Greek if he wanted to and did so at the end of his life.  But I’m bound and determined to try!  (It used to be “common sense” that the sun revolved around the earth, after all….  Just because it’s something we’ve always heard and thought doesn’t make it true!) I’ve dealt with literacy issues on the blog before, but I think I need to give a fuller explanation of my views.  The fullest is in my book Forgery and Counterforgery, but I”ve decided not to go there, since it is not really written [...]

2022-12-01T13:29:47-05:00November 27th, 2018|Catholic Epistles, Reflections and Ruminations|

Who Wrote 1 Peter?

This post is to close out my discussion of 1 Peter, from the New Testament.  Who actually wrote it?  Spoiler alert: we don’t know, but it probably wasn’t Peter. On several occasions on the blog I’ve talked about the issue, most recently at length in a repost earlier this year:  That’s where I give the fuller story.  For now I give just the simple side of things, as I lay it out in my undergraduate textbook on the New Testament. Following this post I will start talking about how and why the books assigned to Peter did or did not make it into the New Testament.  If you recall, the whole reason I got into this thread in the first place (which I foolishly thought would take 2-3 posts) is that I became intrigued by the question of why 2 Peter made it into the New Testament but the Apocalypse of Peter did not.  As I will explain in the next post, I have far fewer questions about 1 Peter (which, like the other [...]

2020-04-27T16:08:53-04:00November 26th, 2018|Catholic Epistles, Forgery in Antiquity|

The Situation Behind the (“Forged”) Book of 1 Peter

I am in the midst of talking about works attributed to Peter, the chief disciple, which have come down to us from the early church.  I should be clear, I think each and every one of these writings was “forged.”   I don’t think Peter himself wrote any of them – 1 Peter, 2 Peter, the Gospel of Peter, the Apocalypse of Peter, or any of the other Petrine works that we now have.  Each was written by a different author, but each author claimed to be Peter, Jesus’ right hand man. The book most widely accepted in the early church as having actually come from Peter is the book we call 1 Peter, from the New Testament.  Yesterday I started talking about what is in it.  Today I follow up on that discussion by explaining its apparent historical context and the approach the pseudonymous author takes in dealing with the problems he (and his ostensible audience) are confronting. Again, this is taken from my textbook on the NT.   ***************************************************** The Context of Persecution Those [...]

2020-04-12T12:51:30-04:00November 25th, 2018|Catholic Epistles, Forgery in Antiquity|

The So-Called First Letter of Peter

I am nearly at the end of my discussion of “Petrine” works in early Christianity, the books that some early Christian or another had been written by Peter, the closest disciple to Jesus in the New Testament.  There are other books connected with Peter that I have chosen not to talk about, at least at this point, including legendary accounts of his missionary activities, some of which are really interesting and were, at one point, highly influential. At this stage, though, I’m talking only about books that we know were thought to be legitimate parts of the New Testament in one circle or another:  2 Peter, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the Gospel of Peter.   And it has occurred to me (just this morning!) that I haven’t said anything yet about the one book connected with Peter that almost *everyone* we know of (who said anything about the matter) thought was part of canonical Scripture:  the book of 1 Peter. I will want to say a few things about this book before getting back to [...]

2020-04-03T00:48:55-04:00November 23rd, 2018|Catholic Epistles|

Thanksgiving Musings 2018

Some musings on this Thanksgiving, 2018. To be honest, like so many others, I find it much easier to be thankful when I have a lot to be thankful for.  I suppose being a truly thankful person would entail being thankful even when most of life was very hard and difficult.   I’ve had times like that in my life, and at least as I recall, even then I found things to be thankful for – a loving family and the possibility, at least, of a good future at least.  But lots and lots of people don’t have even those.   Maybe thankfulness isn’t for everyone. On the other hand, there are lots and lots of people (I know a number of them, and I know *about* far more) who have masses and masses of good things, unbelievably good things, who aren’t thankful at all.  They are simply greedy.  No matter how much they have, it is never enough.  Instead of being grateful for their good fortune, they relentlessly reflect on how they want more and more, [...]

2018-11-22T13:57:52-05:00November 22nd, 2018|Reflections and Ruminations|

Deciding on Which Books Should Be in the New Testament

I am in the midst of a thread in which I explain why it is puzzling that the Apocalypse of Peter did not make it into the New Testament, when the book of 2 Peter did.   So far I have talked about both books, as well as the Gospel of Peter, another Petrine book that did not "make it."  Now I need to explain how church fathers decided which books would be accepted as official scripture and which not.  I've dealt with the issue on the blog several times over the years, the first time being in response to a question on the matter I received some six years ago.  What I said then is what I would still say now!  Here it is: QUESTION: I just read Jesus, Interrupted … and have now seen that you have written quite a few books and articles. I am particularly interested in how the books of the New Testament were chosen and why/how the others were not. Can you recommend a good read for this?   RESPONSE: [...]

Question: How Do I Read Books?

    Here is a question I get asked regularly, and I"ve just now seen I answered it on the blog many years ago.  Worth answering it again!  How do I read books?  This is what I said in 2012 and it's still true in 2018! ***************************************************************************** QUESTION: How do you go about reading books? Which methods do you use in order to read as much as possibile? How do make plans how much to read? Do you highlight things in books? Do you you’re your own comments? Summaries? Any other tips? RESPONSE: Ah, this is an interesting question. As it turns out, there’s not an easy answer. That’s because there are many different ways I read books, depending on what kind of book it is. I realize we’re talking about books dealing with scholarship – not Victorian novels! But I read different books differently depending on what it is, what it’s about, and what I want/need to get out of it. When I was in graduate school I had a friend who insisted that [...]

2020-04-03T00:49:24-04:00November 19th, 2018|Reader’s Questions, Reflections and Ruminations|

Early Debates about the Gospel of Peter

This is the second of my two posts on the Gospel of Peter, and in some ways it is the more important one.  Here I talk about what we knew about the Gospel, before it was discovered, from the writings of the ancient church fathers.  One of these discussions in particular will provide us with the information I’m heading for, of why the Gospel was not accepted into the canon of the New Testament.  (It shows only a single instance of a debate about it, but the terms of the debate are instructive.) These comments come from the “Introduction” to the Gospel that I wrote for the new translation and edition of the early apocryphal Gospels, that I produced with my colleague Zlatko Plese. ************************************************************** The third-century Origen is the first patristic author to mention a Gospel allegedly written by Jesus’ disciple Simon Peter.  Origen indicates that the book may have spoken of Jesus’ “brothers” as sons of Joseph from a previous marriage (Commentary on Matthew 10.17).  It is not clear that Origen had actually [...]

2020-04-09T14:11:59-04:00November 18th, 2018|Christian Apocrypha, Fourth-Century Christianity|

Now, The Gospel of Peter

I am devoting this thread to understanding why the Apocalypse of Peter did not make it into the New Testament, when other Petrine books, especially 2 Peter, did make it in.  I’ve summarized what happens in both these books, but to contextualize my remarks further, I have to provide information on yet another Petrine book that did not make it in, the “Gospel of Peter.”  I’ve talked about this Gospel several times on the blog before, but since it is important to the train of thought here, I need to devote a couple of posts to it again.  Here is what I say about the discovery of the manuscript (the manuscript that also contained the Apocalypse of Peter) and its contents.  This discussion is taken from my book The Other Gospels, co-authored and edited with my colleague Zlatko Plese. ************************************************************ What we now call the Gospel of Peter was found in one of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries of Christian texts in the nineteenth century.  In the winter season of 1886-87 a French archaeological team [...]

2020-04-03T00:50:06-04:00November 16th, 2018|Early Christian Writings (100-400 CE)|

Interested in Taking a Trip With Me to Greece and Turkey?

I have just finalized the deal.  I will be giving lectures on an amazing trip to Greece and Turkey this coming June, 2019, with a company called Thalassa Journeys.  The theme is centered around the journeys of the apostle Paul, and is called "St. Paul in the World of Late Antiquity: Civilizations and Faiths in Transition." For the trip we go to some of the key places in Paul's missionary work:  Thessaloniki, Philippi, Ephesus (staying on the Isle of Samos!), Patmos (connected of course with John the author of Revelation, rather than Paul: but it's in the area and is an important site!), Athens, and Corinth.    On the trip I'll be lecturing on various aspects of Paul's travels and teachings, and will be hanging out, of course, with other travellers the whole time.   The itinerary and planning all look truly great.  You interested? If so, CLICK HERE to download the brochure.  I think you'll agree, it looks terrific.  Anyone connected with the blog (or anyone else who sees this who can claim to be a [...]

2019-01-10T01:53:09-05:00November 14th, 2018|Public Forum|

Introducing the Book of 2 Peter

To make sense of the difficulty I’ve been having in figuring out what they Apocalypse of Peter did not make it into the NT, but the book of 2 Peter did, I need to say a bit about the latter – and probably about *other* Petrine books that did or did not make It (which also claim to be written by Peter even though the author was someone else).   Here is a brief introduction to the book of 2 Peter, taken from my textbook on the New Testament. *******************************************************************  2 PETER For a variety of reasons, there is less debate about the authorship of 2 Peter than any other pseudepigraphon in the New Testament. The vast majority of critical scholars agree that whoever wrote the book, it was not Jesus’ disciple Simon Peter. As was the case with 1 Peter, this author is a relatively sophisticated and literate Greek-speaking Christian, not an Aramaic-speaking Jewish peasant. At the same time, the writing style of the book is so radically different from that of 1 Peter that [...]

2020-04-17T13:29:47-04:00November 13th, 2018|Catholic Epistles, Forgery in Antiquity|

Introducing the Apocalypse of Peter

As I said in my last post, I have been putting a lot of time into reading the scholarship on the Apocalypse of Peter, an early-second-century text that describes the torments of the damned in some graphic detail, and that almost came to be accepted as part of the New Testament canon.  I’m puzzling long and hard over why, in the end, it did not make it in.   It’s not an easy question to answer, given our scant discussions of it the matter antiquity, and given the fact that, well, there are no obvious disqualifying features.   But I’ll get to all that later.  First it’s important to summarize what the text is, so we’re all on the same page. Here is how I introduce it in my textbook on the New Testament. ****************************************************** The last Christian apocalypse for us to consider claims to be a firsthand account of the tortures of hell and the ecstasies of heaven written in the name of Jesus’ disciple Peter. As we have seen, there are a large number of [...]

2020-04-03T00:50:26-04:00November 12th, 2018|Afterlife, Early Christian Writings (100-400 CE)|

A Very Perplexing Question

As many of you know I am on sabbatical this year at the National Humanities.   This gives me a year off from teaching duties in order to focus on my research for my next book.   I am not working on a trade book for a general audience, but a scholarly monograph meant for academics in the field of Early Christian studies.   I’ve talked about the book before on the blog, but want to say a few more things about it now that I’ve been doing research on it. I have no idea what it will be called, but I know what I want it to be about.  It is related to my trade book (which itself is virtually finished – I still need to put the final touches on it before sending it in to my editor), whose tentative title (the trade book) is “Heaven, Hell, and the Invention of the Afterlife” (again, who knows what it will finally be called; that has to be worked out between the publisher, my agent, and me).   The [...]

Thanksgiving and the Blog

If you are like me, you stand amazed at the even-more-increasing commercialization of Christmas.  How could it get *more*?!?  But it is.  Remember the good old days when commercials hit the day after Thanksgiving?  Instead of, well, before Halloween?  Sigh…. I’m impressed and thankful, though, that Thanksgiving hasn’t gotten that crazy yet.  It’s a bit strange that it hasn’t, almost as if there’s a sacred aura about it that keeps it from being capitalized.  Unlike one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar???  Go figure. For me, for a long time, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday.  A simple and crystal clear message with deep resonances.  Many of us have so much to be thankful for.  And we devote a day to it.  If we are lucky, we can spend it with family and friends, cooking, eating, talking, and doing other things we like.  How good can it get? Like all holidays, it’s very hard on other people.   Obviously the homeless and hungry.   The disenfranchised.  Those driven out of their homes or countries.  The [...]

2018-11-09T08:24:40-05:00November 9th, 2018|Reflections and Ruminations|

Old and Ongoing Criticisms!

I was browsing through old posts from the blog and came across this one from almost exactly six years ago, about criticisms people make of my work.   They still make the same wretched criticisms!   But here I try to answer two of the most common ones I hear, based on a perceptive (and non-antagonistic) question about them.   I think the same thing today, as I'm demonstrably older and allegedly wiser. QUESTION: I want to ask your thoughts on something quickly because I think it points out one of the concerns I have with what you write and say. It seems that you have a willingness to take different positions (or maybe emphasize different positions is the right way to say it) depending on where you are and what you're advocating. In your interview with the Infidel Guy and other places, you talk about how ancient writings were dictated all the time. On the Infidel Guy show, for example, you said the following: "Every person who wrote epistles in the ancient world dictated them to scribes". [...]

2020-04-03T00:50:36-04:00November 7th, 2018|Reader’s Questions, Reflections and Ruminations|

The De-apocalypticized Jesus of the Gospel of John

  An important request I received recently!   QUESTION At some point, I would like to hear more about the Gospel of John not having an apocalyptic view of Jesus.   RESPONSE This question relates closely to the work I’ve been doing on the views of the afterlife in the early Christian tradition.   As I’ve pointed out on the blog many times before, John was the last canonical Gospel written, probably 60-65 years after Jesus’ death.  One of the most striking things about John’s account of Jesus message, at this far a remove from Jesus’ life, is that his message has become seriously de-apocalypticized.  In John, Jesus no longer speaks of the coming intervention of God to bring in his glorious kingdom.  Instead, he principally talks about heaven above, and how people can go there by believing in him. That is not to say ... To see the rest of this post you will need to belong to the blog.  If you don't belong, join before it is too late!  The end is near! [...]

2020-04-03T00:50:47-04:00November 6th, 2018|Afterlife, Canonical Gospels, Reader’s Questions|

How Christianity Grew and Grew

This will be the final post on the new boxes in my Introduction to the New Testament; both of these are on a related topic, tied to my book The Triumph of Christianity, so I will include them both there.  One has to do with how miracles allegedly led to conversions of pagans to the new faith; the other charts the rate of growth that it appears the Christian church experienced in the early years.   ********************************************************** Another Glimpse Into the Past Box 26.4  Legendary Confrontations with Pagans As the Christian gospel spread throughout the Roman world, a number of legendary accounts appeared portraying the confrontations between Christian missionaries and their pagan opponents (see Box 9.6).  In these accounts, the Christians’ miracles trump the power of the pagan Gods.  One involves the apostle John in an apocryphal book called “The Acts of John.” John arrives at the magnificent temple of the great goddess of the Ephesians, Artemis, and confronts a large crowd of pagans celebrating the goddess’s birthday, challenging them to a kind of spiritual [...]

Today You Will Be With Me in Paradise?

Here is an interesting question I have received closely connected with the work I’ve been doing on the different views about the afterlife – what happens to us when we die? – in the early Christian tradition.  It has to do with a key verse that has been much debated over the years, a verse found only in Luke’s Gospel, in which Jesus assures the “robber” being crucified with him, that he will that day awaken in paradise.  Or *is* that what Jesus says?   QUESTION Now that you mention about the differences in translations I would like to ask about how the Jehovah’s witnesses in their New World Translation bible Luke 23:43: And he said to him: “Truly I tell you today, you will be with me in Paradise.”  They have inserted a comma after today because their bias is that the paradise is in the future not the day Jesus died. Besides their bias do you see any other indication that that rendition would be probable?   RESPONSE: In my book I try [...]

2018-11-04T07:59:17-05:00November 4th, 2018|Afterlife, Canonical Gospels, Reader’s Questions|
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